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Good day.

Last weekend, I traveled to Michigan for a meeting of the National Governors Association.

Governors from all over the country came together for a weekend of hard work and exchanging ideas.

It’s easy to think about Maine as standing alone against the challenges of a changing economy and global competition. But as I talked with other governors, the message that came through time and again was that many of the problems states face are the same. We’re all part of this national economy, good, bad, or indifferent. We, ourselves, cannot change the world, but we recognize that we, working together, can make a difference.

We’ve all lost manufacturing jobs, natural resource-based industries are beset everywhere by foreign competition, cheap labor, a disregard for the environment, whether they’re in Maine, Wisconsin or Michigan.

Old-line industries, like automaking, that once provided good jobs and benefits to thousands of middle-class families are being lost.

And every state is looking to stretch resources further, to provide better services while holding back on government growth.

While Maine has some unique assets and a few unique problems, we are not alone in the things we are trying to do or the problems we are trying to solve.

One of the great lessons for me of this year’s conference is that there is great opportunity for states that can put aside competition, work together for regional solutions to big problems.

We’re already starting in the Northeast with the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. This brought states in the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic together to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases that are causing climate change.

It’s a cooperative effort that we believe will become a national model for how to manage air pollution by helping industry, stabilizing electric rates and taking care of reducing air pollution.

But this is just a beginning.

We have much to gain from cooperating with our neighbors.

During the NGA meeting, I spoke with the Governor Douglas of Vermont and it seemed clear to me that the old rivalries between neighbors no longer work.

Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont must work together on issues ranging from passenger rail to economic development to environmental protection. If we want to capitalize on our full potential, we must do it by working together.

Alone, we are relatively small, rural states, but together, we have an opportunity to build employment clusters that take advantage of all of our strengths.

Northern New England is a great place to live and work. By working with our neighbors, we can create the critical mass needed to draw new businesses and jobs to the region.

A recent national report reinforces this by saying that we can stem the out-migration of jobs to India and China by working together in rural America and northern New England is just the place.

Geography is not the only criteria that we should consider when looking for partners.

The University of Maine is doing groundbreaking research on the production of ethanol from wood. This technology holds the promise to revitalize our wood products industry, take advantage of one of our great natural resources and to make Maine and the nation more energy independent.

Now we are not the only state working on ethanol. Iowa, for example, is committed to creating alternative fuels from corn. We have a chance to work together with them to speed advances that will benefit both of our states.

Over the weekend, I spoke with Iowa Governor Culver and Colorado Governor Ritter, and we believe that together our states have a better chance of a major break through than we do working separately.

Energy security, reliable electricity rates and the development of cleaner-burning fuels are vital to our country’s economic and environmental health. We have much to learn from one another and much to share.

In addition to talking with one another, governors also heard from representatives of some of the country’s leading companies.

What they told us cuts against the grain of much more popular rhetoric. Tax rates, they said, are important, but not more important than regulatory stability and speed. Faster decision making.

In Maine, we are working to drive down the taxes on our citizens and businesses, but we also need to look at ways that we work, and try to make it easier for businesses and entrepreneurs to deal with state government.

That doesn’t mean that we are going to sacrifice clean air and clean water or loosen the regulations that protect public health and safety. But it does mean that we are going to work to simplify the process for businesses seeking permits.

We are going to modernize our codes and rules, and work to cut the amount of time it takes to get a new project going.

Maine is leading the country in health care and education, environmental stewardship. Other states look to us as a model to follow.

But it’s a two-way street. We have much we can learn from other places.

I intend to build upon my experience working with other governors to open new doors for Maine workers, businesses and researchers.

We’re going to reach out and reach up. There’s great opportunity waiting for all of us.

Thank you.

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